Frank Buttolph’s Menu Obsession.

Photo of Frank E. Buttolph, c. 1917–21 New York Public Library.

Frank Buttolph collected menus. A lot of menus.

…Buttolph’s commitment to collecting menus came, she said, from her desire to preserve early 1900s culinary history for future scholars. Confirming this, The New York Times once wrote that “she does not care two pins for the food lists on her menus, but their historic interest means everything.”

She was a meticulous collector—not only in transcribing, dating, and organizing her menus with a detailed card catalog, but also about how they should be stored. When the director of the Astor Library tried to rubber-band menus together, she pushed back out of worry that it would leave marks.

Click for full size.

Oh gods. Now I want proper mac ‘n’ cheese, and peach fritters.

Atlas Obscura has a delightful article about Ms. Buttolph and her quest to preserve dining habits, and you can see pages and pages and pages and of her collection here. Gad, what a time sink! There’s an Astor menu printed on linen! The menus are not limited to the U.S. The artwork on many of them is fascinating, especially those for dinners being held by individuals. The Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen-Amerika has a menu with gorgeous artwork, and the menu itself is handwritten.


  1. says

    Wow! That’s … amazing!!!

    I have an old edition of The Epicurean (Ranhofer, the former head cook at Delmonico’s cookbook) and it’s got some “robber baron” menus. They’re amazing. You know: “take 20 20-lb lobsters and 9lb of butter” kind of stuff.

Leave a Reply